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Michael Madsen Learns to Be, Zoe Kazan Explodes, and More New on DVD

Michael Madsen Learns to Be, Zoe Kazan Explodes, and More New on DVD (photo)

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“Being Michael Madsen” (2010)
Directed by Michael Mongillo
Released by Midnight Releasing

While not as distinguished or meta as “Being John Malkovich,” expect this mockumentary about the “Reservoir Dogs” star to be equally surreal as Madsen recruits sister Virginia and “Kill Bill” co-stars Daryl Hannah and the late David Carradine to co-star in this film that sees him accused of murder. Rather than sit idly by, Madsen turns the table on the paparazzi photographer fueling the allegations by hiring a trio of filmmakers to follow his every move.

“Beneath Clouds” (2002)
Directed by Ivan Sen
Released by Cinema Epoch

This Australian drama stars Dannielle Hall and the late Damian Pitt as Lena and Vaughn, a pair of strangers thrown together by circumstance to travel across the country to Sydney where Lena hopes to learn more about her long-absent father and Vaughn hope to leave behind his criminal past and see his ailing mother.

“Blood Into Wine” (2010)
Directed by Ryan Page and Christopher Pomerenke
Released by Dreamy Draw Releasing

Drinking was likely a part of the touring lifestyle of Tool frontman Maynard Keenan, but here he turns it into an artform in this celeb-filled doc about the vineyards he co-owns with Eric Glomski in Arizona. Patton Oswalt, Milla Jovovich, and Bob Odenkirk come by for a sip.

“By the Will of Genghis Khan” (2010)
Directed by Andrei Borissov
Released by MTI Home Video

For fans of “Mongol,” this Russian-produced epic offers another take on the life of the famed conqueror as he expanded his empire across Asia and Eastern Europe during the 10th and 11th century.

“A Call Girl” (2009)
Directed by Damjan Kozole
Released by Film Movement

A festival favorite from Rotterdam and Toronto, Kozole’s drama follows a Slovenian prostitute trying to make ends meet for her college tuition when a member of the European Parliament dies on her during a date and brings unwanted attention and notoriety her way.

09072010_ExplodingGirl.jpg“The Exploding Girl” (2009)
Directed by Bradley Rust Gray
Released by Oscilloscope Laboratories

Winner of a Best Actress prize when it premiered at last year’s Tribeca, the fast-rising Kazan gets her first lead in Gray’s Brooklyn-based character study of an epileptic college student who finds it hard to keep her emotions in check when she starts to have romantic feelings towards her longtime friend (Rendall) even as she’s still involved with another man who’s largely ignoring her. (Alison Willmore’s review is here and Aaron Hillis’ interview with Kazan is here.)

“The Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi” (2009)
Directed by Ian Olds
Released by Passion River

“Occupation: Dreamland” documentarian Olds earned an Emmy nomination for this chronicle of Naqshbandi, a middle man in Afghanistan for foreign journalists looking to make contacts and connections for their stories who was abducted with Italian reporter Daniele Mastrogiacomo by the Taliban and killed when their demands were not met.

“Growth” (2009)
Directed by Gabriel Cowan
Released by Anchor Bay

Perhaps a nice double bill option for Vincenzo Natali’s “Splice,” this horror flick stars Mircea Monroe as a woman who lost her mother to a scientific experiment on an island during the 1980s where residents were exposed to a parasite that improved their strength and awareness, but had terrible consequences down the road. Twenty years later, she returns to the island with her half-brother where she learns the worst is yet to come.

“John Rabe” (2009)
Directed by Florian Gallenberger
Released by Strand Releasing

A big winner at the German Film Awards where the historical drama picked up seven nominations (including a rare one for the American Steve Buscemi) and took home best film, “John Rabe” features “North Face” star Ulrich Tukur as a businessman who saved the lives of 200,000 Chinese by using his Nazi Party connections to create a safety zone for those fleeing Asia during the rape of Nanking in 1937. Buscemi plays an American physician who reluctantly helps Rabe with medical care for the refugees while “Inglourious Basterds” star Daniel Brühl plays a Jewish diplomat who inspires Rabe to create a safety zone.

“Killers” (2010)
Directed by Robert Luketic
Released by Lionsgate

Dismissed by some as a “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”-lite (by the few critics that saw it), the comedy part of this action comedy stems from the fact that only Ashton Kutcher is an assassin while his new bride Katherine Heigl is blissfully unaware until their neighbors come over one day to kill them. Hilarity ensues.

09072010_LossofaTeardropDiamond.jpg“The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond” (2009)
Directed by Jodie Markell
Released by Screen Media Films

Memphis-born actress Markell takes on another Tennessee with her feature directorial debut, an adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ unproduced screenplay from the late ’50s about a rebellious heiress (Howard) who defies the rules of her Southern high society circle by taking the son of her father’s caretaker (Evans) as her escort during the social season, but what started as a financial arrangement between the two flourishes into something more. (Alonso Duralde’s review is here.)

“MacGruber” (2010)
Directed by Jorma Taccone
Released by Rogue Pictures

This “SNL” spinoff film, itself a takeoff of master handyman “MacGuyver,” didn’t exactly set the world ablaze when it came out theatrically this summer, but Will Forte, Kirsten Wiig and Ryan Phillippe still got to blow a lot of shit up in the course of making this raucous comedy that pit MacGruber against his toughest foe to date, Dieter von Cunth (Val Kilmer). (Also check out Matt Zoller Seitz’s review, my review from SXSW and an interview with the cast.)

“Solitary Man” (2010)
Directed by Brian Koppelman and David Levien
Released by Anchor Bay

Last seen playing the ultimate scuzzy playboy in “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” Michael Douglas stars as an all-too fallible used car dealership titan whose life falls apart when his bad business dealings come back to haunt him and he begins to lose his touch as a ladies’ man, pushing away both his recently divorced ex-wife (Susan Sarandon) and daughter (Jenna Fischer) as he settles into a relationship with a well-connected younger woman (Mary-Louise Parker). “Ocean’s Thirteen” and “The Girlfriend Experience scribes Koppelman and Levien return for their first foray behind the camera since 2001’s “Knockaround Guys.” (My interview with Koppelman and Levien is here.)

09072010_SorryThanks.jpg“Sorry, Thanks” (2009)
Directed by Dia Sokol
Released by Cinema Epoch

Wiley Wiggins, Andrew Bujalski and Kenya Miles star as twentysomethings adrift in San Francisco in Bujalski cohort Sokol’s feature directorial debut. When the film premiered at SXSW in 2009, Alison Willmore wrote, “‘Sorry, Thanks’ is filled with the expected and somewhat tiresome semi-whimsical digressions…but [Sokol] is in touch with another emotion that’ll be familiar to anyone who’s watched similar films: the desire to give everyone on screen a good shake and suggest that they are actually well into their adult lives.”

“That Evening Sun” (2009)
Directed by Scott Teems
Released by Image Entertainment

Teems’ directorial debut was the hit of SXSW when it premiered in Austin, with many buzzing about the performance of 82-year-old Hal Holbrook as a Tennessee farmer who returns from an unpleasant stay at a nursing home to his farm and finds that his son (Walton Goggins) has leased the land to a ne’er do well (Ray McKinnon) who is trying to get his life together. (Aaron Hillis’ interview with Holbrook is here.)

Also making their first appearance on Blu-ray: “Forbidden Planet,” Tim Burton’s “Mars Attacks,” Robert Altman’s “The Player,” “Rising Sun,” Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “Stardust,” George Lucas’ “THX-1138”

[Additional photos: “The Exploding Girl,” Oscilloscope Laboratories, 2009; “The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond,” Paladin Films, 2009; “Sorry, Thanks,” IFC Films, 2009]

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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GIFs via Giphy

Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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